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Film Review: Barfi!

Film Review: Barfi!

September 18, 2012

One of the most magical films to come out of India since…well…ever!

Barfi! is a wonderful story of a deaf and mute charmer, whose relationships with two different women – one of whom is autistic – bring him into a complex love triangle which can only lead to tragedy.

Let’s be honest with ourselves – in recent times, the films to come out of ‘Bollywood’ haven’t been of the highest quality. With the exception of cinematic gems such as Kahaani, the majority of films released have either been full-on action masala, lukewarm romcoms trying to be the next Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or issue-based dramas which try so hard to push a message down your throat that they forget they’re a film, not a documentary.

So it was a refreshing change to watch Barfi!. Granted, it’s still far from perfect, but offers a very different experience to what most would expect from Indian cinema. That’s not to say it’s fully original – influences from The Artist, Hugo, Wall-E (okay, maybe just the way that Barfi says his name) and particularly European cinema like Amelie are clearly visible – but then what is original these days? Where it succeeds is that director Anurag Basu has solely chosen to be influenced by these films and doesn’t choose to plagiarise stories or rip off scenes word for word – a sin that Indian filmmakers often fall prey to. And what a list of Oscar-winning films to be influenced by!

Ironically, if one could change the language and names of characters and locations, there is no reason why the film couldn’t have been set anywhere in the world, given that the location is rural. But it would have been difficult to find somewhere even half as beautiful on film as 1970s Darjeeling is captured here. Cinematographer Ravi Varman, who has also worked on Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam in the past, is definitely one to look out for, giving the whole film a fairytale-like feel, where the viewer can easily get lost in.

And with the consistently good acting with everyone involved, it’s almost impossible to leave once sucked in. Ranbir Kapoor’s amazing performance as the title character is reminiscent of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Though he exudes his usual ‘chocolate boy’ charm, he also portrays a great knack for physical comedy and here’s to hoping more similar roles of this ilk come this way.

Priyanka Chopra, with only slightly less to do, could have easily come off as irritating, but she commands the screen as Jhilmil, an autistic girl who few truly understand. It’s a far step away from her usual glamorous roles and the scenes between Jhilmil and Barfi are the ones that bring out the greatest emotions in the film.

Like Taare Zameen Par, Black and My Name Is Khan before it, Barfi! should be congratulated on shining a light on disability, but it truly stands out in being the subtlest of the bunch. Yes, Barfi is deaf and mute, and Jhilmil is autistic, but these disabilities are never pushed into our faces in a sense that we must feel sorry for them. Both Barfi and Jhilmil are painted as three-dimensional characters with both positive and negative attributes. Ileana D’Cruz’s Shruti, the first girl Barfi falls for, is also faced with the greatest choice of all at the end of the film, and the audience is left wondering whether she can truly do such a thing in the name of love. To say anymore would ruin the surprise.

Where Barfi! unfortunately fails is in the editing. The film could have been made much shorter, and though it would have been painful for the director, the film would have benefited from sacrificing some of the beautiful scenes in the name of a leaner story. It may have also been improved if Basu chose to give parallel impetus to both relationships Barfi has with the girls alongside each other – maybe working on the friendship Barfi has with Jhilmil as he goes through his ups and downs with Shruti. Instead, it feels disjointed as one story follows another, following another.

Yet it is the ending of a film that the audience really takes away with them, and here Barfi! passed with flying colours. Few films these days have something to say about love, or at least something new to say. Barfi! is funny, romantic, magical, charming and beautiful* – everything you want in a life partner really. Watch it, and feel fuzzy inside.

* Oh, and it’s really sweet too. Like Barfi. Sorry. 


  • Writerzblock
    06.10.12 04:25 AM
    PS: I would have watched the movie for Ranbir anyway ;-) The excellent acting and story line was added bonus. I didn't like Piggy Chops though. She's quite an over-rated actress. I think Ileana did a much much better job than PC.

    *Runs before all the guys start throwing rotten tomatoes*
  • Writerzblock
    06.10.12 04:22 AM
    Yup, I totally loved the movie. And Shai, you hit the nail on the head, with this line:
    'Yes, Barfi is deaf and mute, and Jhilmil is autistic, but these disabilities are never pushed into our faces in a sense that we must feel sorry for them'.
    Perfect analysis.
  • Shai
    01.10.12 11:35 PM
    Thanks for all the positive feedback guys. Hope you enjoyed the movie!
  • palak
    19.09.12 11:59 PM
    gonna go soon to watch it!! cz i m mad for ranbir :) n after reading ur amazing review m even more excited :)
  • Anki S
    Anki S
    19.09.12 03:30 PM
    Finally the sensible cinema has arrived in India :)
  • Ekta
    19.09.12 01:45 PM
    Its a beautifully made movie...yup edit could better..
  • NS
    19.09.12 09:46 AM
    Beautiful movie. Won't mind watching it again...

  • Shai
    18.09.12 09:14 PM
    @Bikram Haha! Let's hope for some more, and would be good to hear your thoughts once you've watched it.

    @Devendra I always liked Ranbir Kapoor, but his films (with the exception of the entertaining Rocket Singh) never really did it for me. In this though, he's completely outdone himself.
  • Bikramjit Singh Mann
    Bikramjit Singh Mann
    18.09.12 08:18 PM
    Seems to be a good movie, I am glad some of the movies coming out of bollywood are actually good.. and sensible ones ..

  • Shai
    18.09.12 07:22 PM
    @Stutis: Fully agreed. And that's only one of the great life lessons the film gives. People (including myself!) need to stop complaining and learn to adapt towards happiness with the cards that they've been dealt.
  • devendra kumar
    devendra kumar
    18.09.12 06:48 PM
    awesome movie and beutiful acting by ranbir kapoor
  • Stutis
    18.09.12 03:54 PM
    Yeah it is little stretched, but overall the movie is really good. What makes us learn from it is, people with so many difficulties in life can also live life at its full and without complains, whereas normal people can not live a life without complains. Kudos!
  • Hena
    18.09.12 01:12 PM
    Sounds wonderful. Definitely up my street. Can't wait to see it.
    Sounds a lot like Benny and June.
  • Manu
    18.09.12 09:55 AM
    Great review. Couldn't agree more!
  • udit ujjwal
    udit ujjwal
    18.09.12 08:12 AM
    amazing movie!!!! if we watch the movie with full involvement, then 100% it will make your eyes wet. Ranbir kapoor has delivered an award winning performance , and so do priyanka..!! D'cruz did the assigned job well too....
  • knowmics
    18.09.12 07:52 AM
    Interesting review need to watch the movie

  • medha
    18.09.12 06:58 AM
    It was a beautiful movie, one of the best that's come of Indian cinema since a long time now.
    About the editing, yeah, I get your point...the many flashback sequences left people a little confused.

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